Nowadays, Google Analytics is part of every website and especially every online store. Without the regular evaluation of their own online marketing activities, every website operator will have problems drawing the right conclusions. In order for the analysis to run smoothly, it must be ensured that Google Analytics is configured in such a way that the correct conclusions can be drawn from the results. For this reason, in this article I will discuss common mistakes that are made when using Google Analytics. The errors discussed have a slight focus on the frequent misunderstandings made by online retailers when using Google Analytics.
Let's start with errors in the implementation of the Google Analytics code.
1. Google Analytics integrated several times on the website
The motto "a lot helps a lot" does not apply when implementing the Google Analytics snippet. In the past, it has often happened that the Google Analytics code has been implemented multiple times in customer projects. This ultimately leads to incorrect figures in Google Analytics reporting. If the code has been integrated several times, this usually leads to KPIs such as bounce rate and average page depth being falsified. As a rule, the bounce rate is displayed very low (1-3%), as the duplicate Analytics code records two page views instead of one. On the other hand, the page depth is comparatively too high, as the double page view is twice as high as the actual page view with a Google Analytics snippet.
If you suspect that your Google Analytics setup has this problem, you can take a closer look at the page views in real-time reports! Here you can see how many page views are made per second.
To find out whether the Google Analytics code is duplicated, I recommend using the Google Tag Assistant. After you have installed the Google Tag Assistant, you can call up the website to be analyzed and activate the Google Tag Assistant. You will then be shown the built-in Google snippets and whether they are working properly.
2. keep (Other) as channel grouping
The acquisition overview is one of the most frequently accessed reports in Google Analytics. In order to draw conclusions about marketing activities carried out, the reporting should be further refined from the standard grouping.
Channels that cannot be directly classified by Google Analytics as Direct, Social, Paid Search, Organic Search or Referral are displayed by Google Analytics as (Other).
To prevent this from happening again, advertising campaigns and partnerships should be based on an error-free UTM tracking must be taken into account. However, channel grouping (Other) is not solved by pure UTM tracking. To ensure that the channel grouping is correct, I generally recommend using the user-defined channel grouping.
You can find out how user-defined channel grouping can be applied, among other things here.
3. keep PayPal as a traffic source
PayPal is a standard payment method in every online store. When paying via PayPal, customers are first taken to the PayPal page and then, after successful confirmation, finally to the "Thank you" page of the online store. As Google Analytics assigns the conversion to the last source by default, PayPal regularly appears as an acquisition channel and thus leads to problems when evaluating channel effectiveness.
To ensure that PayPal is no longer displayed as an acquisition channel, we use the referral exclusion list. To do this, we click on "Administration" and select "Tracking information" under Property and select the "Exclusion list" link. Here we only need to define paypal.com.
Now that we have excluded PayPal, future conversions will be assigned to the last "real" source. Please note that the data will not be changed retroactively, but only from the time of exclusion.
4. forget IP anonymization
Every website operator who uses Google Analytics must ensure that the IP address of users cannot be recognized. To do this, a few adjustments must be made to the standard Google Analytics code. Anonymization is often simply forgotten by website operators.
You can find out whether your website respects IP anonymization relatively easily with the Tag Assistant. Once you have installed the Tag Assistant and accessed your page, select the Tag Assistant and click on the Google Analytics tag. The following code should then be displayed under the "Code Snippet" tab:
ga('set‚, ‚anonymizeIp‚, true);
If you see this code, then you know that IP anonymization is activated. If this is not the case, the following steps must be taken (example refers to the use of Google Tag Manager):
First we need to define a user-defined variable.
We select "Google Analytics settings" as the variant type.
We then define the Google Analytics tracking ID and select the item "Fields to be defined" under "Further settings" and select "anonymizeIp" under Field name and "true" under Value.
Once these settings have been made, all that remains to be done is to ensure that the existing Google Analytics tags also adopt the new Google Analytics variable.
5. forgetting to deactivate the tracking of employees
Another classic mistake that leads to problems, especially for websites with few visitors, is tracking your own employees on the website. Your own website should also be regularly checked by responsible employees during operation. The problem here is that the use of employees can lead to a falsification of Google Analytics data. The best way to ensure that the usage data is not falsified is to use the Google Analytics Blockers by the employees. This is the only way 100% can ensure that the regular testing of website functionality does not result in data corruption.
6. use and rely on IP address filtering
The filter function is one of the most frequently used extension tools in Google Analytics to improve data quality. IP address filtering is often used to prevent tracking, e.g. of employees. However, IP anonymization means that the IP address cannot be fully determined, which prevents reliable IP filtering of Google Analytics data. For this reason, the use of the Google Analytics blocker is the recommended procedure if certain user signals are not to be tracked.
7. misunderstanding the dwell time
In addition to the bounce rate, dwell time is one of the most frequently analyzed KPIs for the quality analysis of website content. This is because it is assumed that the longer a user stays on the website, the more satisfied the user is with the content on the website. The problem with dwell time is how it is calculated. The dwell time is the time that elapses between the first and last page view. As a result, users who only visit one page per session cannot be identified at all. Google Analytics is also unable to determine whether users are actually active or whether the respective page was opened in a browser tab in order to consume the content of the website at a later point in time. This results in a distorted assumption of the length of stay!
By using events, the problem of distorted dwell times can be solved.
8. no Google Ads and Search Console link
Google Analytics is mainly used to evaluate the flow of behavior on the website and to analyze the acquisition channels. Unfortunately, the data is not always fully comprehensible, so in 2011 hardly any organic search queries that led to a website visit are shown. To improve the data quality of search queries, it is possible to link the Google Analytics account with the Google Ads account and the Search Console.
How do I connect my Google Ads account with Google Analytics?
- Open Google Analytics and click on "Administration"
- In the property settings we find the item "Google Ads link"
- The desired Google Ads account can now be added here
- Now we award a title
- Select the pages for which we want the Google Ads data
- Last step: Simply click on link accounts
How to connect the Search Console with Google Analytics?
- Open Google Analytics and click on "Administration"
- In the property settings we find the item "All products"
- Here we can now find various Google products that we can connect to Google Analytics - including the Search Console
- Now we can link the Search Console with Google Analytics here
After we have connected both Google Ads and the Search Console with Google Analytics, we can call up the reports for Google Ads and Search Console in the acquisition report (sometimes only after 48 hours) and carry out our evaluation there.
9. no tracking using UTM parameters
UTM parameters are up to five tags that can be added to the end of URLs to better track marketing or advertising activities. The information obtained allows us to determine which types of campaigns, ads, keywords or placements are working and which may not be performing as expected.
A UTM parameter that I use for a newsletter, for example, looks like this:
If the newsletter has now been sent, I can track the source in Google Analytics. However, if I want more information, e.g. which post was clicked on in the email, I can also find this out in Google Analytics using the utm_content parameter.
The use of UTM parameters is relatively simple and provides a great deal of additional information that can be used to optimize content. For this reason, I am always surprised why UTM parameters are not used.
10. use only aggregated data (no creation of segments)
The Google Analytics data is displayed in aggregated form. The problem with aggregated data is that it does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about how users differ according to age, gender, end device, etc. To get a better overview, it is advisable to segment the data. By segmenting the aggregated data, we get a better overview of how users differ.
To start with the segmentation, we do not select "All users" in our reporting, but the "Add segment" selection function. Here, in addition to predefined segments, we also have the option of creating our own segments.
11. no activation of the site search function
The site search function allows us to determine how often the website's search function is used and which search queries are entered. By evaluating the site search function, advertisers receive clues as to which products or content are searched for and are therefore difficult to access. To activate the site search function, we go to Administration in our Google Analytics account and click on "Data view settings" in the data view.
Here we find the site search tracking function in the last point shown.
Once we have activated site search tracking, we only need to define the search parameters that are triggered when the website is searched. We then also have the option of removing the search parameters from the URL.
Conclusion Google Analytics error
Mistakes in the implementation and use of Google Analytics are not only made by beginners, I also make mistakes from time to time. It is important not to blindly trust the data, because by scrutinizing the data, you often come to the conclusion that there were problems with the implementation or aggregation of the data, which should then of course be corrected.